Making It Stick – From Epiphany to Habit
Everybody loves a good retreat. You get away from your life and your stuff and your worries, I guess let’s call it all baggage, and you get to change your prospective. Retreats can all be different. Some are designed to go inside and learn more about you. Some are designed to go outside and learn more about the natural world. And some are focused around bringing together a group of people with something in common, as you learn about those around you, you learn about yourself.
Retreats can even be as brief as stepping out for a lunch break.
New knowledge is fun, it can change your ideas about how the world operates, or make you see the world in a new way. More importantly, it can change your ideas about how you operate. You can become aware of a new side of coin you even know existed. Retreats can be fun, powerful, emotional, moving, trans-formative. But then you go home, you return to your normal life.
The epiphanies are real. Your prospective shift was real. But being home is… well, it’s just like going home… It’s safe, comfortable and habitual. “Yes, I see that angle on the world and understand my view will never be the same, but this is what I’ve always done before, no need to change that.” You think to yourself. You fall back into old habits, steady patterns, old ways of living.
It is interesting the way we form habits. We can find the world has changed and we aren’t aware that our practices are no longer serving our best interests.
My favorite example of this is the story of shortened roast:
Jane was preparing a roast for her family. As she prepped it for the Oven she got out her baking dish and seasoning and large kitchen knife. Carefully she carved off a large thin round from each end of the roast exposing the red flesh inside.
As she placed the prepared roast into the oven, her inquisitive daughter asked, “Why do we cut the end’s off the roast.”
The mother paused and thought and replied, “Well that’s the way your grandma taught me to do it.”
Being the inquisitive girl she was, the daughter decided to call grandma and ask why she did it.
Grandma’s instant reply was, “That’s the way my mother taught me to do it.”
Luckily, for the whole family, great grandma was still alive and she still had her wits about her. So the girl went to visit great grandma and asked, “Why do we cut the ends off a roast before we bake it?”
Grandma Replied “My pan is too small for a full roast.”
So 60 years later, with a new pan large enough to fit a full roast, everyone was still cutting off the ends because they though that was how it was done. Habit instead of awareness.
So when you get home from your retreat, or your day, or your trip to the gym, and return to your normal life. Think about what you’ve learned and how you might need to setup some new habits to replace the old.
We’ll never be free of habits. We are creatures of habit and pattern and ritual. But the trick is, with a little awareness and repetition our new habits can replace the old habits.
A few ideas:
1) Make a checklist of things you intend to do, and set an alarm to look at the checklist.
2) Make the old habit harder to do: Example, watching too much TV? Take the batteries out of the remote control.
3) Rearrange your things: Example, move your desk to the other side of the room. Open a window. Play new music. Break the mold.
Epiphanies are not to be wasted, they are powerful, motivational and rare. When one comes to you, write it down, make the paradigm shift stick, embrace the gift the universe has given you.